If you plan to climb Denali, the highest mountain in North America, you may have to pack your poop: Denali National Park in Alaska may require climbers on the West Buttress route to carry all their poop in a bucket instead of throwing it away . On a glacier While it may not seem fun to carry an additional 1.8 gallons (about 7 liters) of stool in your backpack, the measure will keep the mountain clean and safe for visitors.
The change in poop regulations comes after research has shown that the faeces thrown into the cracks do not disintegrate, as was originally thought. Instead, the stern is expected to resurface downstream in decades. And nobody wants to see poop stains in a pristine mountain landscape. "The average climber who comes to Denali focuses on a one-time trip," says Tucker Chenoweth, a mountain climber in Denali.
"It was like a box of cats up there."
Packing poop is not that unusual. In the Grand Canyon, if public restrooms are not available, visitors should bury their poop in "catholes" that are six inches (15 centimeters) deep and 200 feet (61 meters) away from water, trails and campgrounds . Yosemite asks cliff climbers to pack their feces into "poop tubes," which will be emptied into the ditch baths when the climb ends. The park also offers excellent tips for making your own tube and asks you to not throw the poop tubes from the cliffs. ("The peaks of the big popular walls in Yosemite are often full of smelly pipes").
Denali has had a poop problem for years. Since 1970, more than 34,000 climbers have left approximately 66 metric tons of stool along the climbing route of West Buttress, the most popular way to reach the summit. Visitors complained about how dirty the camp was at 17,200 feet (5,243 meters), according to Chenoweth. "It was like a box of cats up there," he tells The Verge.
All that human waste is dangerous because the climbers of Denali get that all the water they drink does not melt the snow. If the snow is contaminated with excrement, anyone who drinks is at risk of stomach problems and diarrhea. A 2002 survey of 132 climbers showed that 29 percent had intestinal infections, called acute gastroenteritis, within one to 21 days after arriving in Denali. When you are on top of a mountain, getting sick puts your life in danger.
Climbers in Denali, with the green tin of clean mountain attached to a backpack. Photo by Coley Gentzel
But installing public restrooms is not practical, says Chenoweth. The Rangers would have to fly helicopters more than 50 miles (80 kilometers) to empty the latrines. And so, in 2007, the National Park Service began requiring climbers to collect their poop in biodegradable bags and store them inside a large, green bucket called the Clean Mountain Can. This plastic bucket weighs 2.2 pounds (1 kilogram) and may contain 1.8 gallons (approximately 7 liters) aft, or about 10 to 14 dumps, according to the NPS. At this time, climbers less than 15,000 feet (4,572 meters) can empty those cans and throw the biodegradable bags into deep cracks in the Kahiltna glacier. There, the park rangers thought, the poop would break down or be exposed to temperatures so extreme that the bacteria could not survive.
But poop samples collected from the mountain show that "solid frozen and dried by the wind" feces still contain dangerous bacteria like E. coli, according to a 2012 study. Low levels of E. coli were also found in the Kahiltna River, which flows from the Kahiltna glacier. Although the river is not used as a source of drinking water, it is used for recreation, says Chenoweth.
The dumping rules of poop also create other problems: climbers throw the biodegradable bags into non-designated cracks, which are too shallow. Then, birds like crows rummage in the bags, spread themselves in poop and then carry the contamination wherever they fly. Visitors also place plastic wrappers and wet wipes, which are not biodegradable, in the bags, so they get dirty, says Chenoweth.
A clean mountain Photo: NPS
Enough is enough! Based on recent research, the National Park Service has decided to update its poop regulations: no more emptying clean mountain tins in cracks. Instead, climbers have to collect all their poop in the cans and then deposit them in a designated area designated at the ranger station in Talkeetna. Here, the cans are collected by a local contractor who disinfects the cans and returns them to the park. (Climbers at Camp Four, a camp at 14,200 feet (4,330 meters), may still pull their stern through a crack in particular, according to The Associated Press).
Of course, there's no way that park rangers really monitor what people do after they go to the toilet. But Chenoweth hopes that, once regulations are approved, let's hope that before the May climbing season begins, visitors will be more aware of their number 2 and watch each other. "They'll know it's not right" to throw things through the cracks, he says.
At the end of the day, if the mountain is clean, everyone will benefit. "We feel we are in something really good here," says Chenoweth.